Remembering "Teddy".…Longmeadow's Canine "Care Bear"

Teddy was a familiar and unmistakable sight when owners Jim and Marion Russell would take him for a walk. Being a Labrador retriever, he was naturally affectionate and outgoing. At 130-some pounds, the pale-cream Lab could easily be mistaken for a polar bear cub on a leash! Over this harsh winter, I hadn't seen Teddy for months, so I called to see how he was doing. I was saddened to hear that Teddy had just passed away the week before, at almost 12 years of age. Although he had recently been ill, Teddy soldiered on in true Lab tradition. With his game face always in place, he was always ready for the toss of a tennis ball or a romp with his pals. Teddy's passing, beyond being a painful loss to Jim and Marion, marks the end of a life of service to many, many others as well. You see, Teddy was a working volunteer with Therapy Dogs International. As a certified Therapy Dog, he was a true pioneer in our area as well.




As such, Teddy was a frequent and welcome visitor to patients at the Shriner's Hospital, Bay State Medical Center; and residents of Sunbridge and other such institutions. Before his untimely retirement, he had made over fifty visits, bringing joy, comfort and companionship to both the elderly as well as children in pediatric units.

Jim Russell, a Shriner himself, became sort of a TDI activist in the process, and was instrumental in the formation of a local chapter of the international organization. Marion is proud to say there are 15 or so active therapy dogs in their chapter now! Teddy's tireless volunteer service, coupled with his cheerful personality, paved the way for other fine canines to carry on the tradition that he, our Longmeadow Therapy Dog, pioneered in our area.


Therapy Dogs International is a volunteer group organized to provide qualified handlers and their dogs for visitations to institutions, facilities, and virtually anywhere they can do some good. TDI is a non-profit organization. There is no charge for visitations; and all funds are derived from membership dues, private donations and bequests.

The primary objective of the TDI dog and handler is to provide comfort and companionship by sharing the dog with the patients in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities. It is found that this activity increases emotional well-being, promotes healing, and improves the quality of life for the people being visited and the staff as well.

Canine membership includes both purebred and mixed breed dogs. All dogs are tested and evaluated for Therapy Dog work by certified TDI evaluators. While many dogs provide love and companionship in the home, not all dogs are qualified or have the temperament suited to be a Therapy Dog. TDI's standards, pertaining to the temperament of the potential therapy dog, are extremely high. On February 1st, 8 of 15 dogs tested at Brown's in East Longmeadow passed. I spoke to the manager at Brown's. They have no affiliation with TDI, but merely rent space for dog obedience classes.

Interested parties, as well as their dogs, must pass the TDI requirements added to the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen Test. The test must be conducted by a TDI Certified Evaluator. We have the efforts of Teddy and the Russell's to thank for making it possible for local dogs and their owners to achieve TDI certification with local testing.

For names and addresses, please request an Evaluator List for Massachusetts from TDI by email: Here in Longmeadow, Jim and Marion Russell are ready willing and able to extol the virtues of Therapy Dogs' Local Chapter 170. Drop them a line at:

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